IDF strikes Hamas position in Gaza after rocket launch
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IDF strikes Hamas position in Gaza after rocket launch

Air force hits military post in south of Strip in retaliation for rocket attacks earlier in the night

An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Israeli Air Force on Tuesday night struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip, hours after Palestinians fired a rocket towards Israel from the coastal enclave.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Palestinian side.

The rocket launch earlier set off warning sirens in Israeli communities north of Gaza.

After searches, Israeli security forces found the projectile in an open field outside the community of Netiv Ha’asara, a police spokesperson said.

Sappers were called to the scene to remove the rocket.

The incoming rocket alert sirens sounded in the Hof Ashkelon area, north of the Strip, specifically in the communities of Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai.

The attack came hours after Palestinian terrorists in the Strip launched a rocket at Israel that fell short of its target and landed inside Gaza, the army said.

The past week has seen a significant increase in the number of rockets fired at Israel, amid general unrest in the area.

Last Friday night, a number of rockets were launched at the Israeli town of Sderot. One hit a kindergarten, breaking a window, and another landed in a street, damaging several cars and at least one home. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Earlier on Tuesday, two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group were killed when the motorcycle they were riding exploded in the northern Gaza Strip. The blast was initially described as an Israeli airstrike — something the IDF rigorously denied — but which the Islamic Jihad later said was an accident.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip.

It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks. On October 30, Israel blew up a tunnel belonging to the Islamic Jihad, killing fourteen terrorists in the process, including two of the group’s senior commanders, and two members of Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad retaliated one month later, firing a dozen mortar shells at an Israeli military position northeast of the Strip, causing damage, but no injuries.

The increase in rocket attacks has also been tied to US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that angered Palestinians.

Hamas called for a new intifada against Israel over Trump’s announcement, and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence in recent days.

In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but criticized internationally, especially in the Arab world. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Editor’s note: The article was updated to include the location of the rocket impact.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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